Sweden’s Brilliant ‘Call a Swede’ Tourism Campaign Wins Direct Grand Prix at Cannes

4 U.S. campaigns win gold

CANNES, France—WPP agency Ingo Stockholm won the Direct Lions Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions festival here tonight for a remarkable tourism campaign that allowed anyone, anywhere in the world, to call a phone number in Sweden and talk directly and immediately to a random Swede.

The Swedish Number, at +46 771 793 336, connected callers with random Swedes who had signed up to be de facto ambassadors—but who received no training at all, and had been given no instructions about what to say (or not say). The unfiltered nature of the campaign was what gave it its power, of course—a bold, brave move in a world of overly manufactured manicured tourism work. The campaign also marked the 250th anniversary of the abolishment of censorship in Sweden.

Click the image below to see some data from the campaign: 

You might recall that Adweek called the number when the campaign launched in April, and had an amusing experience talking to a quite unexpected Swede on the other end of the line.

Direct jury president Mark Tutssel, global chief creative officer of Leo Burnett, told journalists in Cannes this morning that The Swedish Number was the essence of brilliant Direct work.

"In a world where we text, we tweet, we snap and we have a million options at our fingertips, it's easy to mistake technology for human connection," he said. "At the end of the day, we're people talking to people. And it's really refreshing to see an idea and a campaign that unites 9.5 million brand ambassadors with the world through the most direct form of communication—which is speaking, talking. In this case, a one-to-one phone call. It's direct at its core. It's an incredibly brave idea that generated immediate response. And it's a campaign for tourism that transcends tourism to become a celebration of national pride and a potent, powerful celebration of a country's 250-year commitment to freedom of speech."

—U.S. Lion winners
Four U.S. agencies won Gold Lions in Direct this year.

Venables Bell & Partners San Francisco won two golds for REI's #OptOutside; Leo Burnett Chicago win a gold and two silvers for the Art Institute Of Chicago's "Van Gogh BnB"; Grey New York won a gold and a silver for Pantene Hair Care's #Daddo; and R/GA Hustle Los Angeles won a gold for Beats By Dre "Straight Outta."

The other U.S. Lion winners in Direct were: FCB Chicago for Contours Strollers' "Baby Stroller Test-Ride" (two silvers and a bronze); McCann New York for Lockheed Martin's "The Field Trip To Mars" (two silvers); McCann New York for Tommee Tippee "Advice Wipes" (bronze); The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., for Geico "Fast Forward" (bronze); Deutsch New York for Water Is Life's "The Art Heist For Good" (bronze); BBDO New York for Lowe's "In-A-Snap" (bronze); OgilvyOne New York for Nascar's "The Hashtag 500" (bronze); Goodby Silverstein & Partners San Francisco for Doritos "Rainbows" (bronze); BBDO New York for Lowe's "Live Vines"; and MullenLowe Boston for Zappos' "Pay with a Cupcake."